HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR WORST MISTAKES

I promise you that you’re already living with your worst mistake.

And, I promise you don’t remember it.

Yes, it is possible that someone else is holding the memory of you kicking a giant stonemason in the chest with his pants undone and his penis peeking out of the underwear fly while you gather yourself off the dusty couch and run to the door. No one saw you crying in the alley. But, yes, it’s possible that the stonemason still remembers your embarrassing, panicked departure.

It’s also possible that so-and-sos partner (if she’s still his partner) tells everyone about that time you hounded her man with text messages because you thought that he was secretly going to leave her for you, even though he was stringing you along like a lofty art project, showing her everything you were sending him while they discussed (probably in detail) what to do with you.

But, even if those people remember your humiliating moments, I promise you that you can’t even imagine the breadth of their recollection because you’ve blocked out the worst parts.

Of course, you’re still left with the shallow crust of embarrassment, the one that blankets you while you’re alone at a house party, gripping a beer, frozen in the realization that yes your first kiss was at age 18 when a trucker who was passing through Syracuse found you at a university theatre party and drank with you until you were fuzzy-headed enough to fall in the snow, requiring his assistance and, oh fine, his eventual burly kiss.

I always remember my most humiliating moments in November, when it’s damp and dark, lonely and boring. But, it only used to hurt me when I was young and unprepared. This season, I’ve noticed my sense of humor has grown impressively and, while I have still been crying in November, I haven’t been feeling embarrassed. I think it has something to do with the support system that’s grown between my partner and I over the pandemic. Over the past two years, I’ve had to expose my worst qualities, habits, tantrums and annoying circuitous insecurities and the gift of his acceptance has helped me distance myself from shame.

I don’t really know how to handle that kind of love but I know it needs to be shared. And so, for starters, I’d like to offer:

Ten Do’s and Dont’s for Dealing With Your Humiliating Memories

But, as you read them please try to notice the memories I may be triggering. You’ll need them.

1. DO Write the memories down.

I’m not talking about journal entries, I mean, write an essay. Find a central theme to your story. What does it mean that you couldn’t hold your bowel movements when you were at summer camp? What does it mean that you can’t forget those failures? Who are you in those moments?

2. DO Laugh

Now, laugh at yourself. Remember, whatever it was, you survived.

3. DO Tell a Friend

Do this one while standing up. Act out whatever you can. If you don’t have any friends, tell a family member even if you aren’t close to them or tell literally anyone else who needs a laugh. Title the piece, “the time I shat my pants for an entire summer,” or whatever feels suitable. Laugh some more.

4. DON’T Inst-stalk the people involved in the memory

You were never his girlfriend and now he’s gone. Don’t torture yourself.

5. DON’T chain smoke and chug whiskey

After all, there’s a reason those two things are literally part of every bad memory ever.

6. DO go somewhere new

Physically move your body to a new location either rin the world or in your house. Re-contextualizing yourself is powerful. It’s brain-work. It’s freeing. And, it’s potentially transformative.

7. DON’T tell your mother

The look on her face will NEVER help you. It might occur to you that she’s a source of catharsis. NOPE. Pity. Only ever pity.

8. DO Read something nice that someone once wrote to you

This one might be hard but if you don’t have access to nice comments, it might be time to join a group on Facebook or a special interest group of any kind, on Reddit or Twitter, anything that appeals to you. Exchanging kind words with strangers can help distract you from insecurities and, oftentimes, it can help you find hope. Yes, you did embarrass yourself or potentially even hurt yourself. But, no, that doesn’t make you a complete failure.

9. DO Sweat

The cure for everything is whatever it takes to sweat for a half hour. I like the treadmill but, if you’re comfortable doing it, just wear tons of clothes and dance around. Let it out, however you can.

10. DON’T go out and have random sex

Honestly. This is just a great rule to keep in your back pocket. Sometimes it’s fun. Oftentimes it’s dangerous. Try your hardest to have sex only in moments when you love yourself. For many years, I only had sex when I hated myself and those nights have collected in humiliating memories that only foster helpless feelings. Take care of your dignity. A solid foundation of dignity helps us let go of self-hate.

Comment with your tips! Subscribe to my blog or find me on IG @rae.zel. DM me, any time. And, stay well.

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